Commentary Magazine


Contentions

“Momma, Don’t Take My Kodachrome Away”

Kodachrome film will soon be no more. It’s been around since 1935 and Paul Simon wrote a song about it in 1973. But it’s been dying along with film photography in general for nearly a generation now, as digital replaces George Eastman’s once wondrous technology.

I was thinking the other day of my grandmother, who died thirty years ago this month, and for some reason began to draw up a list of the technology she never knew because she died in 1979. My grandmother was hardly a technophile but neither was she intimidated by technology (or by anything or anybody else for that matter, but that’s another story). She was more than happy to adopt things (radio, TV, automatic transmission, vacuum cleaners, washing machines, Waring blenders, etc. etc.) as they came along and made life easier and more fun.

What has come along since her death at 89 and is now found in many, if not most, American households is a remarkable list. It’s a measure of how fast the world is changing thanks to what the microprocessor (introduced to the commercial world in 1971, with the digital calculator) has made possible. Just consider some of the stuff we couldn’t get along without and which she never encountered: flat-screen TVs, microwave ovens, cordless phones, ice makers, personal computers, laptops, fax machines, home copiers and printers, GPS, cell phones, Blackberries, Ipods, CDs, DVDs, Tivo, the Internet, Facebook and Twitter, e-mail, Kindle. The list goes on, but you get the idea. Some technologies have already come and gone (VHS, for instance).

I can readily imagine my grandmother reading on a Kindle or using a Blackberry (although I shudder to contemplate the fate of someone who tried surreptitiously to check his e-mail at her dinner table) and she would have loved having a GPS in her car, although I can easily see her ignoring its instructions because she thought she knew better. The Ayatollahs took over Iran just about the time my grandmother’s life ended. They must now be regretting the new technology that has made their tyranny so much harder to sustain.



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